The first time a customer got furious with me for something out of my control was when I was in college.
I was testing the waters of being a pharmacist by working in my local Walmart pharmacy.
This was before pharmacies stayed open from 9am to 9pm, 7 days a week.
We closed at 7:00pm.
Of course—and it was worse then than it is today—doctors’ offices ran behind.
So, at 6:00pm or later, customers with pain written on their face and mothers with sick little kids in tow poured in. Everyone wanted the same thing: “Get me my medicine so I can get out of here!”
The check-in counter had a line 5-10 deep. Waiting customers, standing shoulder to shoulder with arms crossed and frowning, formed a semi-circle around the checkout registers, all waiting for us to call their name that their prescription was ready. Sick children whined and cried. Strangers complained to each other about how long it was taking, talked too loudly about their medical ailments, or that they really needed to get back to the car to check on their ill loved one. Every isle was full, every face showed obvious frustration, and the whole pharmacy area was tense with nervous energy.
That’s when it happened.
I called the gentleman’s name. He took the prescription and read the contents written on the bag, and he exploded with anger.
“This is not the correct medicine for my wife! You get your manager NOW!”
The words he used were not new to me or my college buddies who worked there. Things went wrong from time to time — that’s just the way it went at Walmart.
But this guy didn’t direct his anger at the pharmacists behind the glass. His finger pointed at me, and his angry glare bore a hole in my soul.
I remember the feeling of all of those faces staring at me, their collective frustration piling on, their pinched eyebrows tell me that I had no business working there or thinking I could be a pharmacist, and they all wished they had gone somewhere else for their medicine.
It cut me deep.
That everyone we were trying to help was already sick and tired before they got there, that because of our business hours we had a pile up of customers at closing time, and that the error happened in the prescription itself — of course, I didn’t have anything to do with any of that.
Years later, after experiencing a ton of life in the real world, I understand what happened:
I was the face of the pharmacy to this customer. And as that face, I received what he thought our whole organization deserved because we allowed such frustration to exist.
Organizational problems allow frustration to exist for customers and patients and staff and doctors everyday.
Especially when it comes to computers.
When computers won’t work and doctors can’t get the patient records they need right then, frustration grows.
They know their patients are already sick and tired and that they don’t want to wait any longer. Frustration grows.
They look around and their expensive staff can’t work because they can’t access the EMR. Frustration grows.
Frustration grows, and it can reach a point where the doctor looks at the administrator with all the force that the gentleman looked at me in the pharmacy, demanding a fix, NOW!
These types of storms aren’t solved in the moment — they’re fixed when the sun is shining.
At lunch just the other day, after an hour of trading war stories about our practices and doctors, my good friend and fellow practice leader Dale made this astute observation:
“The trouble with being a practice manager is that it’s our job is to keep issues from happening and getting to the doctors. So if we do our job right, the docs don’t even know we fixed all the problems, which makes it impossible for them to realize all we do. It’s a catch 22.”
Eyebrows raised, I nodded.
Dale sighed, then continued. “It can be a thankless job, but what if we’re making more of a difference than we think?”
I looked at him and smiled. “Yeah…what if?”
As a practice leader, your job is to prevent frustration.
Sometimes you learn what needs to be fixed while you’re in the trenches.
Sometimes you learn it at an MGMA conference, or at a regional meeting with fellow practice managers.
Sometimes you have step back and look at months and years worth of data before you can see the real cause of the problem.
And sometimes, you need someone with more expertise to help you.
When it comes to computers, most administrators need help.
The place to start is with a high-level consultation with a company that has enough experience in HIPAA security and physician practice IT that they recognize a pitfall when they see one.
The main thing is to not ignore a potential problem just because it’s not causing havoc today. “Sleeper IT issues” are just time bombs waiting to go off.
All avoidable. All preventable.
Because your job as a practice leader is to prevent IT frustration, and no one wins when customers or staff or doctors are angry.
© 2018 The Solutions Team, LLC. All rights reserved